how-to-use-gopros-for-underwater-photography

Most of us will have seen some of the vivid, ultra-stabilised films or spectacular wide angle shots of scenery or adrenaline sports taken with a GoPro. These devices are some of the most portable, robust, and surprisingly capable cameras around and, due to their design as action cameras, they’re ideal for taking hassle-free yet high … Continued

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bto-awards-at-the-mall-galleries

As an example of life getting somewhat back to a new normal, the annual Society of Wildlife Artists’ exhibition opened at The Mall Galleries on Wednesday and closes on Sunday 24 October. It’s well worth a visit.

On Wednesday evening, a slightly nervous group of guests arrived at the exhibition for the annual BTO Awards do – with the Dilys Breeze Medal and five Marsh Awards for Ornithology being awarded. There were quite a lot of people for whom this was their first visit to London in over 18 months and for many of us it felt slightly daring to be with so many other people in a room and not wearing a mask.

The restrictions of the past year meant that it felt like an even bigger treat than usual to be in such company, surrounded by ornithologists, artists and nature conservationists, framed by wonderful artwork and seeing fine people being recognised for their contributions. It was a lovely evening and did feel like a privilege to be invited. Many thanks to the Mall Galleries, the SWLA, the Marsh Charitable trust and the BTO for such a fine event.

The actual event was very well handled. The speeches were short and crisp (which hasn’t always been the case in the past) but said everything that had to be said, and did so very nicely. Juliet Vickery was word-perfect in what she said, and how she said it, no surprises there.

Who were the winners?

Dilys Breeze Medal (for outstanding communication of BTO science to new audiences): Dominic Couzens.

Marsh Award for OrnithologyDr Alison Johnston

Marsh Award for Local OrnithologyVic Fairbrother and Ken Hutchinson

Marsh Award for Innovative OrnithologyWest Midlands Bird Ringing Group

Marsh Award for International OrnithologyProf Lukas Jenni

Marsh Award for Young Ornithologist Sian Mercer.

My congratulations to all those rewarded with awards. Dominic Couzens is a writer of considerable merit and scope – he is one of the good guys who deserves recognition (see a couple of reviews of his work here and here). It’s a slight shame, I feel, that the award is for communication of BTO science rather than communication of science as Dominic is worthy of a less tightly-worded award as well as, clearly, this one.

The West Midlands ringers are a bunch of stars with their promotion of catching birds at night, for ringing, through use of infra-red imaging – it’s clever stuff.

I was very pleased to meet Vic and Ken who wrote a wonderful book on Ring Ousels (reviewed here) and it was good to chat to them each about their work – nice guys.

And there were so many people to catch up with that I hardly looked at the artwork, and missed talking to several people with whom I would have liked a chat. That is back to normal…

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eagles-off-–-beyond-our-ken.
https://wildkenhill.co.uk/eagle-project-on-hold/

There have been rumours of this for quite a while but this news is very disappointing.

The account on the website is very apologetic and rightly so, I think, as this will feel like a let down for many supporters of the project. I have heard that as well as some local birders’ being uneasy there have been land-owning and shooting interests leaning on some members of the family on this issue. That might not be true, but it is the word on the street – several streets in fact.

I wonder what will happen as Isle of Wight birds continue to visit Ken Hill and get attached to it…?

Top predators are part of our natural ecology – it’s only because they were ripped away from us so long ago that the Brits have such suspicion of restoring a more natural ecology.

The scare stories about any reintroduction are pretty extreme, whether it be eagles or Beavers, and they happened back in the fairly distant past when Red Kites were brought back too. We should have more confidence in nature taking its course, and listen less to vested interests spreading scare stories. Fear of the unremembered holds us back very often in nature conservation.

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going-with-the-flow:-experiments-photographing-water-in-motion
Photo of water in a stream rushing downstream between two boulders. Water rushing downstream allows a relatively fast 1/0 second shutter speed.  26mm, 1/10 second, f/4.8, ISO 160 © Sastry Karra
Water rushing downstream allows a relatively fast 1/0 second shutter speed. 26mm, 1/10 second, f/4.8, ISO 160 © Sastry Karra

By Sastry Karra

How often have you seen someone approach a waterfall, take their shot, and move on? The waterfall may be lovely, but they’re missing the beauty that surrounds it. Sometimes that may be in the moss-covered rocks on the bank. It might be in the colors of the rocks underneath the water. And it could be in the flow of the water. That’s what attracted me as I explored the area around Campbell Falls.

The magic of flowing water

Water, in all its forms, has a special spot in the hearts of nature photographers. Like most who admire the infinite beauty of nature, I try to notice every little thing in the scene. So, rather than just taking the waterfall shot and leaving, I usually plan to spend some extra time looking around, noticing the wide variety of wonderful details, especially when I leave the falls and walk downstream. There are endless opportunities for a nature photographer to find subjects and compositions by closely observing the patterns and shapes made by flowing water.

Perhaps Leonardo da Vinci said it best in The Nature of Water. He was sometimes called the “Master of Water” as he spent so much time studying how water behaves, flows, and moves under different conditions.

Rushing now here now there, up and down, never resting at all in quiet either in its course or in its own nature, it has nothing of its own but seizes hold on everything, assuming as many different natures as the places are different through which it passes, acting just as the mirror does when it assumes within itself as many images as are the objects which pass before it. So it is in a state of continual change, sometimes of position and sometimes of color, now enclosing in itself new scents and savors, now keeping new essences or qualities, showing itself now deadly now lifegiving, at one time dispersing itself through the air, at another suffering itself to be sucked up by the heat, and now arriving at the region of cold where the heat that was its guide is restricted by it.–Leonardo da Vinci

I might see the water circling, spraying, or bouncing in interesting ways at the bottom of the falls. When the water content is high, say after a heavy rainfall, I might see the river producing a current of bubbles on the surface of the water. Whatever the water is doing, I consider it a treat from Mother Nature! But how to capture that in a photo? And what would Leonardo do if he had a camera?

Finding patterns and flows

For the most part, I use slow shutter speeds (1/10 second or slower) to show movement. I typically use a polarizer to eliminate glare and selectively remove reflections (and give myself a slower shutter speed). Often, however, getting the shutter speed I want requires the use of neutral density filters. Personally, I prefer a low ISO (400 or under) to avoid noise. Those factors dictate my camera settings.

Water in a stream moving in a curving, S-shaped path. At the bottom of the falls. 55mm,1/8 second, f/6.7, ISO 400 © Sastry Karra
At the bottom of the falls. 55mm,1/8 second, f/6.7, ISO 400 © Sastry Karra

Coming away from the bottom of the falls, the water has a bit of speed. While rushing through the rocks, the path of the water formed a sort of S shape and the velocity of the flow meant that a shutter speed of 1/8 second would work. That gives a sense of motion while retaining some texture.

A little farther down, the water slows a bit and, with a longer exposure, the water appears much smoother. There’s not as much texture as the previous shot, but there’s a different, calmer feel to this one.

Photo of a stream meandering through boulders and downed trees. A little farther down the stream. 95mm 1/4 second, f/6.7, ISO-400 © Sastry Karra
A little farther down the stream. 95mm 1/4 second, f/6.7, ISO-400 © Sastry Karra

Experimenting with exposure, one can start to see how the water finds its way through the rocks on its way downstream. Sometimes you can’t see that with the naked eye but, with a longer exposure, the patterns and path become clear.

Leonardo da Vinci felt that water could be “divinely beautiful” in its flows, eddies and swirls. His illustrations of moving water were not really observations of a single moment in time. Instead they sought to explain what the water was doing and, by so doing, illustrated his thought process as he worked to understand and explain how water flowed.

Figure : Studies of water passing obstacles and falling, c. 1508-9. (image credit Leonardo Da Vinci Wikimedia Commons)
Figure : Studies of water passing obstacles and falling, c. 1508-9. (image credit Leonardo Da Vinci Wikimedia Commons)

I tried to visualize Leonardo’s thought process and apply that to my photography. How can I illustrate what the water is doing so that I or the viewer can understand it better?

Water transmits, but also changes light. In this same location you can often see reflections of the colors of nearby vegetation or of the sky. Those colors can help build a composition, especially if the water flow is slow and not very dramatic. The color of rocks beneath the water can also contribute color and some extra beauty. Occasionally, when the sun’s rays fall at a specific angle and the waterfall is kicking up some mist, there is a possibility of a rainbow forming.

Water flowing over rocks and tree stump creates swirling, abstract patterns. 46mm, 3/10 second, f/5.0, ISO 220 © Sastry Karra
Abstract water movement. 46mm, 3/10 second, f/5.0, ISO 220 © Sastry Karra

When I ventured a couple of hundred feet downriver from the waterfall, I noticed the way the water was flowing over some rocks and tree stumps. It seemed to create an abstract scene that hypnotized me and is hard to explain but was incredibly soothing. I guess you had to be there.

The next time you’re near flowing water with your camera, try a few different shutter speeds, especially slow ones. You might be surprised at the patterns you’ll uncover.

Epilogue

Being born and brought up under strict Hindu tradition, our Divine Mother (known as Adi Parashakti – the First Power or Supreme Energy) manifests herself in various forms representing Mother Nature giving birth to all life forms, sustaining and nourishing them and finally re-absorbing them back into herself.

Wherever I go, I always appreciate the unique beauty provided by the Divine Mother or Mother Nature. I try to respect the environment, the plants and animals, and all the surroundings. Following the seven principles of Leave No Trace and NANPA’s Principles of Ethical Field Practice help me minimize my impact. Humans and natural world are not two different entities; we are in this together.

Jaganadha “Sastry” Karra was born in India, but left when he was 24 years old. For the past 27 years, he’s worked as an IT professional, and has been living in NJ since 2004.During his spare time, he goes outdoors and takes nature photos, especially waterfalls. Along with his wife (who loves hiking), they go to many nearby state parks where he can experiment with different compositions. In the summer, when his friends play cricket, he’s been experimenting with sports photography. Find him on Instagram at @sastrykarra, where he posts most of his pictures. On Facebook, he’s active in some photography forums, like NANPA. “Maybe I’ll see you there!” he says.

working-with-local-communities-in-guatemala-to-protect-biodiversity

This piece comes to us from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). To honor Hispanic Heritage Month, WCS and Nature are bringing you five stories in the fields of nature and conservation.


América pictured at a Paso Caballos residence, its front door painted by local children as part of her “Let’s bring color to Paso Caballos” initiative. Photo credit: ©Eleanor Briggs

Ever since I was a child growing up in Guatemala, I have loved the natural world. My country is full of wonderful biodiversity, from hicatee turtles swimming in rivers to scarlet macaws in flight and ramón trees that yield fruit crucial for the subsistence of our communities. It is a landscape of natural riches—and more so where it intertwines with the ancient vestiges of Mayan culture.

While I didn’t have much contact with wildlife in the capital, where I was born, I dedicated my afternoons to chasing butterflies in my schoolyard or the local park. I would think about what each butterfly’s life may have been like, who they had met, where they got their food.

It wasn’t until 1992, when a university internship led me to Uaxactún, a community within the Maya Biosphere Reserve in the Petén region, that I had my first wildlife encounter. There I saw a jaguar and a tapir for the first time. Though I confess I was a little bit scared, it was easy to fall in love with the Maya Forest.

América and representatives of the San Miguel La Palotada Community Development Council, National Council for Protected Areas, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food, and WCS, plant trees during a Reforestation Day event in San Miguel La Palotada. Photo credit: ©Pedro Xona/WCS

My parents came from humble backgrounds, and they instilled in me the importance of a good education and working hard to do your best. They aspired for me to become a lawyer or a doctor, but I already knew I wanted to dedicate myself to conservation.

With conviction and determination, I enrolled at the University of San Carlos de Guatemala for a degree in renewable natural resources engineering. Although my parents did not understand my decision, my dear mother Doña Judith supported me in her own way, regularly sharing the news she had read about the latest threats to biodiversity, like forest fires or a possible bi-national highway plan with Mexico.

América pictured with Don Andrés Ical, a local church leader in Paso Caballos. Photo credit: ©Eleanor Briggs

I’ve had two mentors who have greatly influenced my work and perspective on conservation. The first, when I came to Uaxactún in 1992, was Don Fernando Quixchán. Don Fernando was a chicle (or natural chewing gum) contractor, with incredible knowledge and passion about the history of chicle activity in Petén.

My second mentor was Roan Balas McNab, who hired me to join the Wildlife Conservation Society when he was the Guatemala Program Director. A true scientist with a passion for wildlife, archaeology, and the nature of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Roan taught me the importance of seeing all situations as a landscape, of stepping back to analyze things from a more holistic perspective. But above all, he taught me to get out of my comfort zone. He pushed me to challenge myself and broaden my horizons.

Lately, with WCS, I’ve been working with the Mayan Q’eqchi community of Paso Caballos, located within the Laguna del Tigre National Park, implementing a national reproductive health program and strengthening their governance for improved conservation and development.

América inspects the firebreak surrounding the Paso Caballos community polygon in the Laguna del Tigre National Park. Photo credit: ©Pablo Tec

I still vividly recall the signing of the first conservation agreement between the community, WCS, and the National Council of Protected Areas in 2010. After a big ceremony, all community members in attendance at the general assembly came forward to sign the agreement, which was followed by a party and an atmosphere of excitement.

At that time, I promised a community leader that I would not leave Paso Caballos until his school’s dirt floors had been covered with cement.

Ten years later, I find myself standing with a strengthened community despite the disadvantages that come with poverty, indigenous identity, and living within a national park. I can proudly say that working together we have managed, among other things, to neutralize the threat of forest fires, improve health care and infrastructure, and build four school classrooms, each with cement floors.

América and a graduate student present a reproductive health research project to members of the Paso Caballos Community Development Council and Council of Elders. Photo credit: ©Manuel Tut

Progress in Paso Caballos allowed me to step away from the community and focus my attention on another troubled community within the Reserve. After completing college, I had worked with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in the community of San Miguel La Palotada. We successfully helped them obtain the first community forestry concession in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in 1992.

Sadly, forest management and governance in the Reserve carry significant challenges that the community could not overcome, and by 2009 they lost their concession and land permanence rights. Then, close to two decades after participating in the original forest concession declaration, I had the privilege of returning to San Miguel La Palotada to support the community.

América and members of the Paso Caballos Community Development Council and Council of Elders carry a community statement against illegal wildlife trade in an event celebrating the Maya Biosphere Reserve’s 30th anniversary. Photo credit: ©Laerke Taidal

Working alongside the “Juntos por San Miguel” alliance, we began to repair the relationship between the community and the government and recover the community’s rights to inhabit the area. Soon, Guatemala’s National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) and the leaders of San Miguel will sign a new cooperative agreement, vesting the community with access rights, and renewing the promise for the future of biodiversity in this landscape, and the larger Maya Biosphere Reserve.

I am proud of the community in San Miguel, of the Guatemalan government as represented by the National Protected Areas Council (CONAP), and of our work in Guatemala that always seeks to achieve a balance between nature conservation and human well-being. I am optimistic for the future of conservation in Guatemala as long as we continue to respect our “great home”—the Earth—and understand that our true wealth lies in biodiversity.

The post Working with Local Communities in Guatemala to Protect Biodiversity appeared first on Nature.

new-compact-zoom-lens-for-nikon-mirrorless-z-mount

Nikon has announced a new Z mount compact travel zoom lens: the DX 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 VR. It is designed specifically for Nikon mirrorless cameras with an ASP-C sensor.  The compact zoom measures in at just 3.6 inches long, weighing 315 grams, with a 62mm filter thread and a 7.9 inch minimum focusing distance. As the … Continued

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6-tips-for-spotting-nocturnal-creatures

Not all creatures are ones that you can spot during the day. In fact, there are many species you can find at night that are just as fascinating, including great honed owls, barn owls, foxes, rabbits, and other small mammals. 

Going out and exploring Canada’s nocturnal creatures can lead to some interesting nature stories and sightings! If you interested in going on (or organizing your own) night nature walk, check out the following tips to improve your experience: 

1. Dress Warmly

Often times you’ll be standing still listening for creature noises or stopping to examine an animal you’ve come across. Don’t underestimate the drop in temperature during the night.

Image of a Boreal Owl

2. Bring Flashlights, but use them sparingly

Flashlights will not harm nocturnal creatures, but they will scare them off. It’s often best to let your eyes adjust to the natural light reflected by the moon than it is to use battery powered lights.

3. Bring a recorded owl call

Recorded owl calls are a great way to induce a barn or screech owl to return a call, but use them sparingly as owls will assume a potential rival is infringing on their territory and you don’t want to disturb them too much! Also remember to start with the calls of the smallest owl first (such as a Saw-whet Owl) and work your way up to the larger owls (such as a Great Grey Owl) as even small owls will be intimated by the presumed presence of the large owls and will fall silent.

4. Be as quiet as you can

In the dark, listening to creatures can be as important (and rewarding) as seeing them with your eyes. Naturalists are just as happy to hear an owl as they are to see one. However, you do stand a greater chance of seeing animals if you’re not making a lot of noise.

5. Have people look in different directions

Organize your group so that your eyes cover as much of the surrounding area as possible. A sighting is a sighting whether it’s done by you or someone else!

6. Know the trails before heading out

The last thing you want is to be lost out on the trails in the middle of night. Make sure you have prior knowledge of the pathways and always know how to get back to the entrance. Bring a map, if possible, and ensure you have some a cellphone in case of an emergency.

Conclusion

Night time nature walks can be very rewarding but should be practiced with extreme caution. Be sure to follow the tips above and avoid going alone. Each person who goes on a night time walk should have their own light even if they are not all turned on during the journey and remember to be respectful–nocturnal creatures are sensitive to light and might not be receptive to your well-intended presence. 

Stay safe and don’t forget to share your pictures through our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)! Stay tuned for more nature updates, subscribe to our email updates here to keep up with our work.  

The post 6 Tips for Spotting Nocturnal Creatures appeared first on Nature Canada.

sony-unveils-new-fe-70-200mm-f/2.8-gm-oss-ii

Sony has announced the newest lens in its E mount G Master line up: the FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM OSS II. This is the world’s lightest 200mm large-aperture telephoto zoom lens. Weighing in at just 1045 grams (37oz), it is approximately 29% lighter than the previous model. “Listening to our customers around the world, we … Continued

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xtar-releases-new-7-in-1-modular-camera-battery-charger

XTAR has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a brand new modular 7-in-1 camera battery charger. It promises to bring an end to the frustration of having separate chargers spread out everywhere, pre and post-shoot.  Most avid photographers or videographers, particularly those that travel, know the frustration of packing individual chargers for every device, as well … Continued

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